Dounia Tzai has all the music your Spotify "Vibes" playlist is lacking. A Morrocan American model and activist, the 22-year-old released her first single “East Coast Hiding” in 2017. Before starting her music career, though, Tzai was a burgeoning model with an impressive Instagram following. She used her internet presence to pioneer a message of body positivity in a very negative industry, earning her Dazed’s description of “a fierce advocate for POC and women who don’t conform to unrealistic, toxic Hollywood standards of ‘the perfect body.’”
This message is what originally drew me to Tzai. I’ve been following her even before the release of her music due to her bold disposition and refreshing sincerity. There is a severe shortage of powerful women who use their platform to advocate for minorities in the entertainment industry, but Tzai carved out a space for herself, uplifting marginalized women from the very beginning of her career.
I remember the first time I listened to her second officially released single, “Shyne.” The song delves into Tzai’s experience with the spotlight, elaborating on her relationship with music and modeling as a medium for social mobility. She writes about her family life, avoiding landlords when the rent’s due and hoping for a Grammy to one day make her mother proud.
There are certain ubiquitous experiences that second generation immigrants, like myself, share regardless of what country our parents fled or where we ended up — Tzai’s release of this single in 2017, a few months after Trump’s inauguration, rang as a poignant testament to the struggle women of color face nationwide, particularly immigrant daughters carrying legacies of suffering on their shoulders. For me, this song was more than just a bop — it was real.
Today, her music continues this honesty, with messages of female empowerment, self-love, and self-sufficiency. The song “Glass Walls” off her latest album The Scandal, opens with how people hope to tear her down for what she’s accomplished. The song demonstrates Tzai’s tenacity, as it discusses the things she knows she deserves regardless of hearsay.
In addition to her lyricism, Tzai has an incredibly smooth and rich voice that distinguishes her from most artists on my radar. She keeps her content real and her writing is spectacular. If you haven’t heard her content before, I recommend starting with my favorite song off of The Scandal, titled “Toxic.” If you want to delve further and like listening to music in languages other than English, her song “Darija Freestyle” is pure perfection sung in English, French, Arabic and Morrocan Arabic.
Tzai is everything the music industry needs and more. Don’t believe me? Check her out.
Article Thumbnail by Justin Higuchi from Los Angeles, CA, USA - "All Eyes On..." 03/06/2019, CC BY 2.0